"I just forgot we're allowed to pitch it because that happens so rarely, you know?"
This week we have a guest responder, Craig Ross, author of The Obscene Diaries of a Michigan Fan, and The Search for the Unified Theory (Football Version), neither of which he would actually encourage you to buy—as if that's going to stop us.
Craig also has an article about the weird as hell 1925 season in this year's HTTV, now available for pre-order in the MGoStore, and which we do encourage you to buy. Because his fan memory goes back to pre-Bump I thought he'd have a unique response from history that none of us young 'uns would have remembered, then he answered with a play we'd just as soon forget.
Special thanks to Wolverine Historian for making most of these replies possible. Prepare thineself for some youtubes!
Describe the weirdest play/sequence you can remember as a Michigan fan?
BiSB: Personally, I find weirdness in the mundane. It's the draw play on 2nd and long, or the corner who allows a receiver a free inside release on 3rd and 2. Like snowflakes, even the most typical, nondescript plays demonstrates the chaos of our very existence. Each is unique, and each is OH MY GOD PITCH THE BALL TO BREASTON YOU ARE TYLER ECKER AND HE IS BLACK JESUS WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THINGS HOLY DO YOU STILL HAVE THE FOOTBALL HE'S RIIIIIIGHT THEEEEEEEEERE.
Honorable mention for the Brandon Minor touchdown catch against Michigan State in 2008, when 100,000 people we all like,"uh, I'm pretty sure that's not how a pylon works, champ..."
[Hit the jump for two blocked punts in a row and people making top fives]
Brian: "Weird" can encompass so many different things. Is it Michigan being the first (the very first!) team to try the now-ubiquitous spread punt formation in 2003, only to lose a game against Iowa almost entirely because of it? That's pretty weird. It was weird then, and it is a million times weirder now. Is it the whole damned Shane Morris fiasco? It's weird that your third string quarterback doesn't even know where his helmet is. Is it spending an entire game against Iowa with Denard Robinson under center?
There are so many possibilities here that I'm going with a Gimmicky Top Five List™.
5. RYAN MALLETT FUMBLES TO MIKE HART FOR FIRST DOWN
At 3:35 since I can't get the embed to work
Both of these things were very Ryan Mallett and Mike Hart but that's still pretty weird.
4. THE WHOLE DAMNED SHANE MORRIS FIASCO
Just the bit on the football field. If we were including the extracurriculars this would be #1 with a bullet.
3. THE BUFFALO STAMPEDE
Michigan has zero points in the third quarter of a game against Minnesota? Dr. Lloyd has just the prescription.
2. THAT F-ING BIT OF THE 2001 WASHINGTON GAME
#11 Michigan had thoroughly dominated #15 Washington 51 minutes into the game when Hayden Epstein took the field for a chip-shot field goal that would stake them to a probably-insurmountable 15-6 lead. Naturally, it was blocked and run back for a touchdown. On Michigan's very next offensive play a simple pass in the flat to Chris Perry popped off his pads and into the hands of the same damn guy who had just scored on the field goal block. He scored again, and Michigan was down 20-12. This is how you lose a game in which you outgain the opponent 372-268.
1. THE ENTIRE 2008 CITRUS BOWL
Oh look it's Lloyd Carr running a wide open spread offense that takes advantage of the opponent's weakness in the defensive backfield. Oh look Mike Hart fumbled twice inside the opposition five yard line, and Michigan still put up 42 points and won. Oh look, the seas are now blood and exactly four people I know got raptured up. All of this makes equal sense.
The whole 2011 Notre Dame game, and most especially that batshit fourth quarter. Michigan was coming off an opener shortened by lightning. Notre Dame was coming off an opener in which Brian Kelly literally turned purple. Neither team's opener contained a fraction of the weirdness of UTL1, which featured:
- A Michigan home football game being played at night. On purpose!
- Junior Hemingway catching three passes... for 165 yards.
- Michigan throwing fades to a 5'8" guy before anyone knew this was a good idea.
- Denard Robinson scoring a touchdown off a Stephen Hopkins fumble that bounced just so.
- Tommy Rees forgetting how to hold a football at the worst (best) possible time.
- Vincent Smith scoring the would-be winning touchdown on a throwback screen.
- Theo Riddick scoring the would-be winning touchdown when Michigan asked Marvin Robinson to cover approximately three acres of grass after lining up in the box.
- Jeremy Gallon's magical cloaking device. RIP Don Criqui.
- Brady Hoke not bungling the clock here, something nobody really noted at the time because oh man how could we ever know.
- Roy Roundtree catching the actual winning touchdown with two seconds left, the third touchdown scored in 1:10.
I'll admit that this being the second game I ever covered at Michigan added to the whole surreal factor. This would be the last season the athletic department allowed media members to head down to the sideline midway through the fourth quarter. I wandered over to the press box elevator just after Denard threw the interception with 4:23 to play, fully expecting Notre Dame to run out the clock and win it. Instead, I staked out my spot just by the flagpole as the defense forced a three-and-out, then watched the madness play out while everyone around me—media members, the ROTC color guard in charge of the flag, the players mere feet away—lost their minds several times over.
If we're going for wtf-just-happened-iness, I don't think anything is going to touch the feeling at the end of that game. After seeing that play out, you could've told me anything and I would've believed it, because clearly it was a night to suspend disbelief.
Seth: Who here remembers when Michigan blocked two punts on two plays in a row?
It was 2000 Indiana at Michigan, and if you don't remember this game watch the entire video below so you'll know what it'd look like if you put Denard Robinson and (now Borgesian LSU offensive coordinator) Cam Cameron together on one of the worst Indiana teams ever. If you're already fluent in the Ballad of Randle-El, skip to 6:14.
The setup: On 1st and 10 Indiana tries to play-action but remember Randle-El is Denard 1.0 so Michigan is totally spying this with Eric Brackins and sacks. On 2nd and 20 the ball goes over Randle-El's head and by the time it's chased down and secured it's now 3rd and 45.
Indiana comes out in a diamond/punt-like formation with the QB at normal depth, and Keith Jackson is actually talking about whether "Antwaan can quick-kick," and sure enough they try to punt on 3rd down. But Shawn Lazarus shoves a guard into Randle-El's foot and it's blocked. The ball goes straight up in the air, then falls to the ground and sits there in the middle of all these football players with nobody moving to pounce on it.
Because the ball didn't cross the line of scrimmage it's declared a loss of down so Indiana gets to punt again. They do...
...and Marquise Walker blocks it cleanly, picks it up on the bounce, and runs it in for a touchdown. A side bit to this weirdness is they were punting to Ronald Bellamy, whose hand was wrapped, because what would a punt returner need a thumb for?
David: Yes, 'Weird' and 'WTF' can be interpreted in many different ways. Its hard to not reference 27 for 27 (probably the stupidest WTF of all-Michigan-time) without thinking "What the ffff...how? Why? I just don't..." Or even the muffed punt that hit the Wisconsin gunner-defender that allowed Michigan to kick a FG and steal the 2001 game (the last time we won at Camp Randall)...but as long as we're doing Top 5 Lists:
5. "10-6." More of a game, but in what seemed to be a microcosm of Michigan's 2014-15 hockey season, Michigan outscored Ohio State, 10-6. Ohio State was down a few players, Larkin had 5 points, maybe there were goalies...very little about this game was not weird.
4. David Wilson Goes Minus 22. First drive of the 2012 Sugar Bowl, VT is 1&G at the 4 and David Wilson just can't stop running backwards. Not sure I've seen many runs like that, in that big of a game. Or a 2nd and 26...from the 26.
3. Dileo to...Glanda?!?! Same 2012 Sugar Bowl and M is setting up for a 36 yard FG right before halftime. Obviously, they fake it, Dileo avoids the rush, rolls out, proceeds to hit 2 VT players in the hands and the ball deflects to...Jareth Glanda, the long snapper, who gets a first down. Of course it did. M now kicks a 26 yard FG with 8 seconds left in the half.
2. Gardner to Roundtree! In a game where Trevor Siemian became an Unstoppable Throw God, Northwestern Northwestern'd almost as hard as they ever have. With 16 seconds left and M down 3, Gardner throws a 55 yard gasp that is sailing over everyone until the safety not only hits the ball, but knocks it back to the overthrown Roundtree, who grabs it and goes down at the 10. M ties it and goes on to win in OT. Lolwut.
1. Paul Rhoads' Aneurysm. Ok, ok, not an M play. But you could hear him screaming from the PRESS BOX. The referee originally calls it a catch for a 14 yard loss, but the replay clearly shows the ball hits the ground at least a yard away from the RB. Paul Rhoads goes full Jim Harbaugh. Eventually, the call is corrected...but this is too good to pass up. Video/transcript/GIFs all at the link.
Adam: The great American philosopher Andre 3000 once asked, "What's cooler than being cool?"; the answer, of course, is "Ice cold." The great American blogger Seth has asked, "What's weirder than being weird?"; the answer, of course, is "Running a fake Statue of Liberty play set up by a real Statue of Liberty play."
I was sitting near the top of the bowl in the opposite endzone, mouth agape, blaming the distance for what I thought I saw. It wasn't the distance; it was the defense. If we're looking for wtf-just-happened-iness this one takes the cake for me, because I'm pretty sure I spent the whole second half in a daze, muttering that under my breath.
Seth: The great philosopher Adam Schnepp once wrote "here's the weird thing about the day your dog died the week after your house burned down" and the answer was "much like Pierre Woods and Chris Graham, your dog was unblockable but didn't have hands to tackle anybody with."
Craig: There is no question in my mind, but my guess is this may be at the top of everyone's list. The last play of the Nebraska game in 2005 season, The Alamo Bowl. And, I wrote about it some place. Maybe the Ann Arbor Observer, but I still have a copy of it. Here it is:
"And we won...I guess" said Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan, after attempting to describe the last play of his team's win over Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. The play was one born in the Land of Oz, Rube Goldberg, and evil juju—a strange ending to a strange season. For the Wolverines, it was a denouement that could have existed only for a team both refusing to give in and refusing to concede to its own fate.
The Wolverines were trailing the Cornhuskers by a score of 32-28 with 2 seconds remaining on the clock, having blown an 11 point fourth quarter lead. The ball was near the UM 35 yard line. Michigan QB Chad Henne dropped back to throw and the Nebraska defense covered the deep ball. The QB threw under the zone to wide receiver Jason Avant, standing near the 50-yard line. Avant immediately turned and tossed the ball back a couple of yards to Steve Breaston.
Breaston ran to the right sideline but he was hemmed in at the Nebraska 45 by three defenders. The play was dead, or so it seemed--but Breaston whirled and threw the ball to running back Mike Hart. Hart, not seeing any real opportunity to advance the much further then tossed the ball back to Avant, who had drifted to midfield.
The play was already weird, but then--20 yards past the line of scrimmage--Avant set up in the classic quarterback pose and rifled the ball the width of the field, to Mario Manningham at the UM 45. Manningham reversed the field again, winding his way to the right sideline, looking for space. He eluded one defender at the UM 40 then, as he was hit, flipped the ball back to Avant again. The wide receiver now had his hands on the ball for the third time on one play.
Avant was immediately cornered on the right sideline at the UM 29, well behind the original line of scrimmage. He retreated a few steps and, as he was pounded to the turf by two defenders, passed the ball behind and to the left side of the field, where center Mark Bihl jumped for the ball and dropped it. As the ball rolled around on the turf, Chad Henne and some others on the field (including some of the game officials) appeared to believe the game was over, and they walked away from the play. But Mike Hart knew the ball was alive, since the last pass again moved it toward the Michigan goal line. Hart, who had been knocked to the ground in the scramble for the loose pigskin, squirmed free and picked up the ball at the UM 17, 18 yards behind the original line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, back at the corn field, the Nebraska bench was dousing Coach Callahan with Gatorade or Good Sour Mash and Husker players were pouring onto the field. But Hart was still running. He avoided three Nebraska defenders and then, while being knocked over by a fourth, pitched the ball back to tight end Tyler Ecker--the seventh lateral of the play.
Ecker received the ball at the UM 30 and rumbled down the field. As he crossed the line of scrimmage, he veered right to avoid the celebrating Nebraska players and coaches. A photographer stood at midfield, aiming his camera toward the Michigan goal. Ecker easily eluded him.
By now, several UM players and coaches also had stepped onto the field. But the tight end hadn't given up, and he gathered steam and blockers near the right sideline as he moved into Nebraska territory. By the time the Nebraska defense finally closed in, he was he at their twenty yard line.
One more lateral (to trailer Breaston) would have led to a touchdown. But Ecker, who had the goal line in his sights, seemed unaware of the Michigan help that had gathered behind him. He was stopped, at last, near the Nebraska 13.
And so the season ended with both a bang and a whimper. The final act mirrored the season and the desperation of a team able to play close with anyone, but only close against Ohio State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and now Nebraska. The Wolverines' 7-5 record was their worst in 22 years.
I went back and watched the play last night to time it. It ran for 53 seconds and my guess is that is some sort of a record. I also realized that if Ecker had cut back to the middle of the field, near the Nebraska 40, he would have waltzed in for a TD. Or, at the 30, had he waited for his blocker to take out the last defender he would have also scored. Instead, he streaked past his blocker and then to the sideline, where he was hemmed in. Of course, what the officials might have called, if Michigan had scored, is anyone's guess. In retrospect, if UM had scored, that element might have been the most weird.
OR HE COULD HAVE PITCHED IT TO BREASTON!!
The other plays that have stuck with me are both from 1988.
Here's the game but the play itself isn't in it.
Miami (Steve Walsh was the QB and it was Jimmy Johnson's last year at Miami; we had Mike Taylor and Demetrious Brown; the former did most of the work in this game) came in as #1 but Michigan was sky high and dominated most of the game.
By the mid point of the fourth quarter UM was ahead 30-14 and was driving in Miami territory. Now, it all becomes a blur to me, but I am certain that the UM fans were creating a ruckus with the wave, assuming the game was over. I was apoplectic, at the time, thinking that UM fans should have saved it for when Miami was on offense.
However, on a 2nd and 5 from the Miami 35 (this could be wrong; I have a tape of the game, somewhere in my stacks, but no handy tape player at the moment) the crowd noise caused an early or late snap and a fumble by the UM QB. The blown play caused a couple of lost yards and the drive went into the tank and less of the clock was used than might have accrued without the early/late snap.
We must have punted since Miami started at their 20, down 16, with 7:16 on the clock. They went on to score 17 points with the aid of some lobbying by Johnson and, at the end, a successful onside kick. The last few minutes of the game are a haze to me but I believe the mistimed snap was the play that killed us, and I believe the wave caused it. This is a loss I lay on us, the fans. That said, we went completely in the tank in quarter four. We were playing the clock and not the game.
Later in the season, against OSU, UM just trucked them in the first half at C-Bus and was ahead 20-0 at the end of the second quarter. OSU didn't look competitive. Until the third quarter when it looked like the teams changed uniforms in the locker rooms.
By the fourth quarter OSU was up 24-20 and then 30-27 and they had just pummeled us for most of the half. With about 2 minutes on the clock John Kolesar took the kick-off from a few yards inside the goal line and returned it to the OSU 41.
Kolesar got a breather as Brown tossed an incomplete pass. Then Kolesar came back into the game and Brown heaved it into the end zone, where Kolesar caught the ball for a 31-27 win. It was a weird ride since the OSU fans had given up at half, and (rightfully) went crazy as the game completely inverted. It was also weird since the OSU fans (a singular event for me) were more or less human post-game. Pre-game? Not so much.